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D'où viens-tu?

Our latest video asks the question, D'où vient le nom de la France? (Where does France's name come from?) As you'll learn from the video, the name comes from les Francs (the Franks), the Germanic people who settled in the region in ancient times, when it was known as Gaul.

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If you ask a French person, D'où viens-tu? (Where are you from?), he or she might say, Je viens de la France (I come from France). But there are two other ways of saying the same thing:

Je suis français(e).
I am French

Je suis un Français/une Française.
I am a Frenchman/a Frenchwoman.

 

Here, you can see an important rule that applies to all French demonyms (or words referring to the inhabitants of a place): when used as an adjective (as in the first example), they're written all in lowercase, but when used as a noun (as in the second), their first letter is capitalized. 

 

You can see this distinction played out in this caption from the video: 

Les plus anciens ancêtres connus des Français sont des peuples gaulois.
The oldest known ancestors of the French are the Gallic people.
Cap. 32, Le saviez-vous: D’où vient le nom de la France? 

 

While les Français is a noun, gaulois is an adjective. As an alternative, we could rewrite the sentence by flipping the parts of speech and changing the capitalization accordingly:

Les plus anciens ancêtres connus du peuple français sont les Gaulois
The oldest known ancestors of the French people are the Gauls.

 

On a related note, the names of languages in French are always lowercase: whereas le Français means "the Frenchman," le français means "the French language." And whereas demonyms can change gender and number, language names are always masculine and singular. So you can have le Français (the Frenchman), les Français (the Frenchmen/French people), la Française (the Frenchwoman), and les Françaises (the Frenchwomen), but you can only have le français (the French language).

 

Finally, another way of answering the question d'où viens-tu is with the expression être originaire de (to be originally from/to be a native of). Aïssa Maïga uses this expression in her video on promoting literacy among girls and women in Senegal: 

Vu le fait que je sois originaire du Sénégal et aussi du Mali...
Seeing as I am originally from Senegal and also from Mali...
Cap. 18, Alphabétisation des filles au Sénégal

Aïssa is a French actress with origins in Senegal and Mali, or in other words: Aïssa est une actrice française, originaire du Sénégal et du Mali. 

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For practice, try describing where you're from in French in a few different ways. You can find a thorough list of French demonyms here

 

Vocabulary

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